and then, i was dancing

by tobias crabtree

when bobby brown came out with My Prerogative, i watched him dance on MTV and decided i wanted to learn to dance. i didn’t quite know how to do it but, by god, i was gonna figure it out. that’s right, i was going to buy a video or watch MTV until i got it down. there was a dance studio near my mom’s house that i drove by all the time and i stopped in…i stammered and hummed and hawed and signed up for a street dance class. the teacher was hot, so i was pretty faithful. and i started finding some rhythm, kinda…i think. 

years passed and so did my cavaricci’s. the dance clubs where i haunted and flaunted whatever i thought i knew changed ownership, and then changed again. some were torn down. some just got boarded up and stand as a stale reminder of “hammer time”. 

when grunge came to town i felt it down deeper than i felt the music from before. Nine inch Nails and his Head like a Hole made me stomp and rage. the Chili Peppers screamed. the flannels filled the dance floor, and i was there, grunging away with rest of them. i had a buddy named craig white and we never missed a thursday night at our favorite club. the lines were long and we all looked the same because we wanted to be different. to me, dancing was being on the dance floor and looking bad ass and looking around at everyone else who believed they were looking bad ass as well. all smooth and cool and rhythmic. but let me just say right here, i was not really dancing. i was doing whatever that was…whatever you want to call it, but i wasn’t dancing, not yet. 

time went by, like it tends to do, and i went into the marine corps where i didn’t do much dancing (none). grunge left and took it’s flannels with it. craig white shot himself in the head and i cried. i gotta say, i didn’t feel much like dancing when i came back from kuwait. i was tired. i left the country and went to Chile. it was coming up on new years and i was there with a buddy who got out of the marines when i did. i hadn’t been to a country like Chile. i began to learn Castellano when i got there…so i sounded like tarzan, at best. we made our way to Valparaiso where Pablo Neruda had a house. the streets were old. it was new years eve. we walked with the high that comes from nights like those. we had a piscola and a beer and a buzz. we were old pals, arm in arm, in a foreign world. a dog ran by with a butchered goat’s head in his mouth; happy new year for him, for sure. in an alley, down some stairs, there was some singing. christian led the way and we walked into a song. the bar was hot and the music was live…so alive…so damn alive. the bar had no room but the entire room raised their glass and yelled us to come in. an older, very round, chilena stepped up and grabbed me and pulled me into the movement through sweating, cheering, drinking throngs.

and for the first time in my life, i danced. and i didn’t care how it looked. and i didn’t care who watched. and i loved those people in the room with their grand smiles and their wonderful clapping. and i thought maybe i would never do anything else. 

when the sun came up, we sat on a stoop. christian was smoking a cigarette and he looked at me through those blue, bronx-born, irish eyes and said simply, “yeah, man.” and i smiled from ear to ear.   yeah, man.